How Regional Economic Solutions (RES) began illustrates the story of different worlds coming together.
Leann Wilson and Mal Meninga were highly successful in their separate fields, Leann holding a public servants roles across State and Federal Governments as well as the NGO sector and Mal forging a successful consulting role in the corporate sector after retiring from professional rugby league including work in Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands.
Leann and Mal are cousins through their South Sea Islander Heritage. Leann is also a proud descendent of the Bidjara and Kara-Kara peoples in central and central-western Queensland.
Leann has always been a spokes person in advocating social, economic and cultural parity for First Nations people. This advocacy work began in her home town of Barcaldine, where she work with the Central West Aboriginal Housing organisation and later she negotiated and established the inaugural Native Title and Cultural Heritage Ofﬁcers for the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads. These positions were later deployed across the state.
Value adding knowledge
Leann picks up the story: “I was with the Federal Government and asked Mal to come and do work with me in that space. At the same time Mal was also thinking of inviting me to work in the private sector, where he was working with Ausenco in Australia and Papua New Guinea.”
“Mal could see how the Native Title and Cultural Heritage knowledge I had could add value to Ausenco at that time.” He then facilitated a conversation with Ausenco’s CEO Zimi Meka and COO Simon Cmrlec. Through this collaboration Zimi sponsored the setup of the majority owned First Nation business, and in February 2012 RES was born.”
Making the transition
“I had spent 30 years in government at both state and federal levels and also in the not-for-profit sector sector but had no networks in the business space,”Leann says. “It was a huge transition. The guys mentored me and provided the resources to build the business and to understand the nature of the private sector.”
“On the flip side, I brought the authenticity of lived experience from a First Nations perspective; and I had expertise navigating government. From my background, there were a whole range of areas where I could add value to Ausenco.”
Out on Country… Mal and Leann team up to develop and facilitate learning on country. Leann talks about First Nation Leadership blended with Mal’s high performance.